'Exceptional Volunteers'

At this time of year, as we reflect upon our many blessings, I know that I count among my own blessings the many people that are Catholic Charities -- those we serve and those who serve. Our staff of 600 full and part-time professionals is ably supported in their work by nearly 3,000 volunteers, donating well over 200,000 hours of service over the past year.

This fall, we honored seven "Exceptional Volunteers" at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. The depth and breadth of their commitment is impressive.

Andre Sansoucy is a partner at the law firm Melick and Porter, and has been volunteering in Immigration Legal Services for longer than most of our paid staff. Andre has been tackling seemingly mundane yet all too important, painstaking task of invoicing and organizing our files. Andre is always willing to help out in any way and maintains an optimistic attitude.

Over the last year, Kathleen Elcock has spent three mornings a week assisting in classrooms at Nazareth Child Care Center in Jamaica Plain. As the staff that nominated her noted, Kathleen is more than a helper, she embraces our philosophy that good early childhood education is built on strong nurturing relationships.

Mary McColgan, R.N. volunteered her time throughout the past year, supervising the Laboure Center's Public Health and Wellness Program, which provides home-based services to frail elders in the community. Working with Boston College student nurses, Mary spent over 130 hours visiting, tracking and supporting these isolated and frail elders.

The Parish Elderly Outreach Visiting Program exemplifies what it means to put faith into action each day. For over 30 years these parish volunteers have been companions to countless number of elders in Brockton, Avon, and Kingston providing them with companionship, spiritual comfort and prayer. Elders are visited at home as well as at local nursing homes, assisted living programs and while in-hospitals.

Patience, charm, efficiency, and a sense of humor -- Brother Robert Green, CFX brought it all to Catholic Charities in Lynn. For the past three years he was the first face (or voice) our visitors and staff met on Wednesday morning. Staff appreciated that Brother Robert was always punctual and ready to do more than answer phones. He was patient and kind to all who find themselves in the difficult position of needing to seek food or rental assistance from Catholic Charities, and an especially good example to the male students in our GED program.

Marie Bumereth, a volunteer at Catholic Charities Yawkey Center/Haitian Multi Service Center, works tirelessly serving a diverse population in the Dorchester/Roxbury/Mattapan neighborhoods of Boston. She volunteers in the food pantry, packaging hundreds of bags of food for the center's most needy families and individuals. She is always cheerful and engages the clients in their native language and makes each person she interacts with feel important.

Donna Buckley has been a wonderful volunteer at Merrimack Valley Catholic Charities since the first day she started working with us nearly two years ago. Her leadership skills have been a great asset in our food pantry and Donna has done it all, from unloading trucks filled with heavy food items to helping with the intake process. She has even volunteered extra hours when other volunteers are unavailable.

We are truly grateful to these honorees for all that they have done to enrich our work--we simply cannot do all that we do without their commitment of time and talent.

Volunteers are absolutely essential to our holiday giving efforts as well. This year, in partnership with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley, the Greater Boston Food Bank, along with volunteers from parishes, companies and schools across the region hundreds of volunteers will help to distribute Thanksgiving turkeys and fixings to 5,000 families across the archdiocese. It is a monumental but important effort -- as so many in our communities continue to struggle to make ends meet.

We rely on volunteers in so many ways during the holiday season -- they host Friends Feeding Families parties and help stock the shelves of our food pantries, they serve on committees to run events like our Greater Boston Christmas Dinner and some decorate and open their homes for Laboure Center's Christmas House Tour.

As John F. Kennedy once said, "Everyone can make a difference, and each of us should try."

Our volunteers bring this compelling call to service a reality.

To learn more about the work of Catholic Charities, go to www.ccab.org.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.